Wednesday, March 30, 2011 • 1:58 PM Comments ()

Pepe Calls for Answers

posted by Maureen Turner

Whoever was responsible for the embarrassing payroll error that resulted in city school teachers being overpaid by $1.2 million over a five-month period earlier this school year has been identified and disciplined, according to Superintendent Alan Ingram.

But if you want to know exactly who took the blame, or what their punishment was, well, you better tap into your best City Hall gossip connections. That information will not be publicly released, Ingram has said, citing state law that keep such disciplinary matters confidential.

“Due to statutory exemptions under Massachusetts General Law, I cannot disclose specific references concerning this disciplinary matter, but I will say that we made an aggressive investigation and traced back every step involved in the calculation of teacher payroll to pinpoint where the error occurred,” Ingram said in a press release. “Those responsible for the mistake have been held accountable for it.”

But that statement has been less than satisfactory to some in the city—including School Committee member (and rumored mayoral-candidate-to-be) Antonette Pepe. In a press statement earlier this week, Pepe raised concerns about the investigation, asking why the matter was reviewed by Melissa Shea, head of human resources for the School Department, and why the financial director was not involved. (Shea’s report was also reviewed by the city Law Department.)

Pepe continued: “Why was the School Committee not informed of the resolution regarding accountability and procedures to eliminate a recurrence of such a mistake? The public and the School Committee should have knowledge of how the investigation was done, how the conclusion was made, and most importantly were the right employee(s) accused or is it the fox watching the hen house? The public as well as the teachers have a right to know what disciplinary action is being taken on the person(s) that committed the $1.2 million error.

“The tax payers as well as myself cannot understand why the law protects employees that work in the public sector. If an individual working in the private sector makes a major mistake or breaks the law, no secrets are kept. The members of the School Committee should have a right to the information. They need to know if the employee(s) had problems in the past. School Committee [members] who vote on the district’s budget must be assured that competent people prepare and implement the budget.”

Pepe concluded: “I have to wonder how many cover ups there are in this type of government.”

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